Eggs are a wonderful part of a balanced nutritional plan. Despite all of the kerfuffle about the cholesterol in eggs, it's a healthy food which provides protein and choline. Each egg delivers a whopping 6 grams of protein while choline is an essential nutrient. Part of the b vitamin family it is responsible for supporting methylation as well as overall nervous system health.
However eggs can also be an infection vector especially for salmonella. I was shocked recently when I gave a talk to discover, chatting with attendees afterwards, that not one of them was aware of the huge recall involving nearly half a billion eggs back in 2010. I have a couple of articles about that time frame from my blog here and here.
According to the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service, “Pasteurized eggs or egg products shall be substituted for raw eggs in the preparation of Foods such as Caesar salad, hollandaise or Béarnaise sauce, mayonnaise, meringue, eggnog, ice cream, egg-fortified beverages and recipes in which more than one egg is broken and the eggs are combined.” This ruling is for susceptible populations such as the elderly in care home situations, children in preschools, or those who are ill, immuno-compromised, or in hospitals or other health facilities.
Currently in order to pasteurized “raw” eggs they are bathed in hot water for one hour. In a new process, The Agricultural Research Service (ARS) claims that pasteurizing eggs through radio frequency (heating the egg) followed by a water bath to cool it off will be sufficient to kill salmonella.
Given that salmonella comes from the hen laying the eggs doesn't it make more sense to treat the hens so they don't get salmonella? Unfortunately in this country we prefer to treat the outbreak and the affected ill population. But it doesn't have to be this way. Below is a graphic from the presentation I gave at the Weston A. Price Foundation Regional Conference last weekend.
As you can see from the graphic above, reducing salmonella at the source not only creates a healthier poultry industry, it reduces health care costs. I'm not sure how much it costs to treat salmonella poisoning for 80,000 people. And the truth is that may not be an accurate number as no one knows how many cases went unreported.
So while industry may pat themselves on the back for adding another systematic process to food production I have a few issues with this:
- I do not consider these eggs to be raw. Raw means raw, not heated, not radio treated and heated. True they are marked ‘pasteurized' but they are not raw.
- We are focusing on the wrong side of the equation. We should be removing salmonella at it's source.
- We are missing an opportunity to reduce health care costs and save lives by changing how we raise poultry (and in Denmark they do it without antibiotics)
The government wars that even undercooked eggs (such as over easy or soft cooked) can be a potential vector for disease. If you choose to eat raw eggs you may want to consider getting to know your egg farmer and not purchasing from large, confined, commercial egg operations.